NativitySil

“He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”
Handel’s Messiah, Air from Part II, quoting Isaiah 53

Being acquainted with grief does not fit the season. Or so it might seem.

Last Sunday I was in the third row from the front, drinking in every recitative, air, and chorus of Handel’s Messiah. It was an occasion to experience the power of music to convey and enhance the meaning of words.

At one point I noticed a change; I could feel a difference in the music. Perhaps I was starting to doze, but it seemed that the same line was being repeated over and over again, slowly, deliberately. The mezzo-soprano’s voice was working its way to my innards. And the words?

“…a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”

Hearing the whole Messiah at Christmas-time you get more than bargained for: the whole drama of the Messiah, beginning to end. The Hallelujah Chorus, interestingly, does not mark the birth, but the resurrection. But this line of the mezzo-soprano—it seemed to be repeated almost mercilessly–left the most lasting impression. It dawned on me that Handel might have captured more than I realized.

In many ways, the older I grow, the more acquainted with grief I become. It’s all around me; it’s in me. Sometimes it seems to overwhelm. Everything.

Grief seems so un-shareable, so unbearably singular; so mine. But it need not be so. The truth of that line begins to dawn. He was acquainted with grief.

Perhaps this is not the normal fruit of listening to Handel’s Messiah. But this year when I gaze at a baby lying in a manger, cold and uncomfortable, I will hear a mezzo-soprano’s voice singing those words. And I will be grateful.

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) composed his Messiah over the course of a few weeks in 1741.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

Previous articleMerry Christmas
Next articlePhenomenal Ben Carson and the Consequential Richard Weaver
John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is baconfromacorns.com.